The Last True Family Man

Fair play to [B]Liam Howlett[/B]....

Fair play to Liam Howlett. Flustered not one iota by the gently simmering argument between the [a]Prodigy[/a] and the [a]Beastie Boys[/a], as publicised at Reading ’98 when the Beasties slapped the Prodge down over ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and the Prodge stuck several fingers up and played it live anyway, ‘The Dirtchamber Sessions’ finds The Essex One in typically cavalier form.

For not only has he brazenly included Ultramagnetic MC‘s’ ‘Give The Drummer Some’ in the line-up, the original source for the “Smack my bitch up” line, he has also squeezed in a blast of the Beasties‘Time To Get Ill’. And not only has he squeezed in a blast of ‘Time To Get Ill’, but he has mixed it straight into ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Baby’ by none other than Mister Barry ‘Bazza’ White.

Cheeky stuff, for sure, and a moment of welcome light-heartedness during what is essentially a rather po-faced mash-up of Howlett‘s record collection. Your stereo will kindly tell you that ‘Dirtchamber…’ features eight tracks. These are in fact eight slickly linked sections, each incorporating snippets and slice-ups of tunes which in some way inspired Howlett to endeavour to become the proverbial good mixer in the first place.

Yup, Liam‘s gone back to his roots to create his own DIY mix-up tape, different from the dozens of DIY mix-up tapes you can pick up at Camden Market only in the sense that his cassette actually features bits of his own records and it’s, uh, on CD. Still, no matter. The plot may be wearing a stern, righteous expression, but the chosen tunes still evoke a certain feeling of frantic joy as Howlett cuts, crossfades and generally careers between hip-hopping troubadours (LL Cool J, West End Boogie, Grandmaster Flash), indie disco standbys (The Charlatans, Jane’s Addiction, Primal Scream), club pioneers (Meat Beat Manifesto, Renegade Soundwave, Coldcut) and just, kinda, various dudes (Public Enemy, The KLF, Herbie Hancock, Bomb The Bass, Belle & Sebastian and yes, one of these could well be a stinking fat lie).

Sounds confusing, right? It most certainly does. Consider that only the (presumably pivotal) Sex Pistols‘New York’ gets more than three minutes airspace on ‘Dirtchamber…’ and you can begin to understand just how Howlett has managed to so skilfully coerce 50-odd tracks into a mere 51 minutes. It’s the musical equivalent of battery farming and, by gum, it’s barmy: we have the grooves; we have some vigorous scratching; we have the Pistols piling into Fatboy Slim‘s ‘Punk To Funk’; we have a slightly sneaking suspicion that ‘Dirtchamber…’ is little more than an extremely cool update of ‘Stars On 45’; and we have the surefire sense that this album is specifically designed for cocky little kids with the attention span of gerbils who spend their time scooting around the backroads of Essex looking for kicks of the decidedly vicarious kind.

A bit like Liam himself all those badly dressed years ago, then.